HK to complete amending legal practitioner ordinance by June, following top legislature’s interpretation: LegCo member
Published: Jan 13, 2023 12:41 AM
Junius Ho Kwan-yiu Photo: Yun Tianhua/GT

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu Photo: Yun Tianhua/GT

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is expected to complete the process of amending its legal practitioner ordinance as soon as June, and to include the spirit of the top legislature's interpretation of provisions in the national security law for Hong Kong into local laws, said a Hong Kong LegCo member, after the top legislature in December gave an interpretation of the law in deciding the case of whether infamous secessionist media tycoon Jimmy Lai is allowed to hire a London-based barrister to defend him in his national security case. 

The LegCo member believed that such a move will also send clear signals to countries such as the UK and the US that Hong Kong's affairs must be handled according to law. 

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a Hong Kong Legislative Council member and a solicitor, said that Hong Kong allows overseas lawyers who have full local practice qualifications to participate in legal affairs that are not under the responsibility of the central government, such as national defense and foreign affairs, as long as they do not violate the Basic Law. 

If the case involves national defense or foreign affairs, a certificate from the Chief Executive is required. With the implementation of the National Security Law, whether a case involves national security has become a new factor in consideration, Ho said.

The Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Wednesday expressed strong dissatisfaction with and firm opposition to a meeting between British Foreign Office officials and Lai's "international legal team" and their comments, saying they interfered in Hong Kong affairs.

The remark was made after UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office confirmed that Minister for Asia Anne-Marie Trevelyan met Lai's legal team on Tuesday. "The foreign office is providing support, or has provided support, to Jimmy Lai for some time," a spokesperson of the UK prime minister's office said.

The actions of the British side slandered Hong Kong's law-based governance, blatantly undermined the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong and violated the principles of international law and the basic norms of international relations, said the spokesperson of  the Commissioner's Office.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK urged the UK to respect facts and rule of law and stop meddling in Hong Kong-related affairs, when asked to comment on the meeting between Trevelyan and Lai's legal team.

China's top legislature last month adopted an interpretation of Articles 14 and 47 on the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

A proposal was submitted by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee to the central government mentioning Lai's case in late November, suggesting that the NPC Standing Committee should interpret the NSL for Hong Kong to clarify whether a lawyer without full local qualifications can handle national security cases. This came after the city's top court rejected an appeal by the Department of Justice to overturn approval for London-based King's Counsel Timothy Owen to represent Lai, which is seen as a disappointing ruling.

Article 14 of the NSL for Hong Kong stipulates that the duties and functions of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the HKSAR include analyzing and assessing developments in relation to safeguarding national security in the HKSAR, making work plans, and formulating policies for safeguarding national security in the city, advancing the development of the legal system and enforcement mechanisms of the region for safeguarding national security and coordinating major work and significant operations to safeguard national security.

No institution, organization or individual in the region shall interfere with the work of the committee. Information relating to the work of the committee shall not be subject to disclosure. Decisions made by the committee shall not be amenable to judicial review, according to the article.

The courts of the HKSAR shall obtain a certificate from the Chief Executive to certify whether an act involves national security or whether the relevant evidence involves state secrets when such questions arise in the adjudication of a case. The certificate shall be binding on the courts, according to Article 47 of the NSL for Hong Kong.

Ho said such a move also sends clear signals to countries such as the UK and the US that Hong Kong's affairs must be handled according to the law. 

Ho said that the LegCo had already held meetings on amending the rules on legal practitioner ordinance, mainly on the hiring of overseas solicitors. "Cases related to the National Security Law need approval from the Chief Executive, and if the Chief Executive declines, no other party should apply to the court," said Ho, noting that this is also aimed at including the top legislator's spirit into Hong Kong's local laws. 

Ho said that the amendment is expected to be completed before June this year.